Making for Others

Making for Others | Jon's FAFKAL Sweater

I’m currently making a sweater for my husband Jon as part of the Fringe and Friends KAL and it’s gotten me thinking. Usually when I’m making something it’s either for myself or for my sister, which is really about the same as making something for myself since I know exactly what she likes and exactly how to fit her.

Making for Others | Jon's FAFKAL Sweater

This sweater for Jon though, it’s tough. I thought knitting him a top down sweater would be much quicker and easier than its turning out to be, and not for the reasons I expected. Of course he’s a guy and I don’t make things for men often (or ever knitting-wise outside of hats) and while I haven’t done a ton of sweater designing I have taken a few knitwear design classes and designed my own sweaters before. I thought that those two things would be my obstacles on this journey.

Making for Others | Jon's FAFKAL Sweater

I started this sweater over a few times at the very beginning because I’m unable to count and watch the Olympics at the same time, but that’s no big deal, that’s just me not paying attention and yelling at the TV. I have started the sweater entirely over once and then the other night I ripped back from around the waist to the armhole divide. Both times Jon thought the sweater was totally fine and was thrilled at how it was progressing but I felt like it wasn’t right. It wasn’t until I was discussing it with a friend that I realized that if it were a sweater for me I likely wouldn’t be so picky with the fit and I think it’s a combination of a few things.

Making for Others | Jon's FAFKAL Sweater

First obviously I have perfectionist tendencies, I think we’re all aware of that fact. I typically don’t have them at the expense of finishing a project though, as I do in this case. I obviously want Jon to have a sweater that fits well, of course he deserves that, but I realized that, while he would love literally any sweater I made and put on his back, I find it impossible to apply the same standards I apply to making for myself, which are do the best you can, a finished garment is better than no garment. He might love it but if I know that something is amiss I don’t want to look at that sweater forever – because that’s likely how long he’ll keep it – and know I should have taken an extra week for him to rip it out and correct what’s wrong.

Making for Others | Jon's FAFKAL Sweater

Maybe it’s because he loves things I make more than I do that I’m having this perfection anxiety, I’m not sure, but I thought it was a curious thing and wondered if others have this as well. So, now I want to ask you, do you make for others? If so, do you hold these things to the same standard as when you make things for yourself? Or is the standard different for different people like it apparently is for me? Very curious!!

16 replies on “Making for Others

  • Natasha

    This is interesting. I make a lot of things for other people. I’ve made quilts, little bags, etc. Mostly I’ve made these things for family, including for my husband. I am like you, less likely to rip out a seam if it’s for me. I want the things I make for these people I love to be as beautiful as I can make them. So I do take the time to make them right, most of the time. I have to say that with the quilts, I have gotten towards the end and just sped through just to get the thing done. There is a lot of joy in making something for someone you love though. It’s like you’re pouring your love into that creation.

  • iblameparis

    Yes, I agree that making stuff or others makes you even more anxious. However, it is important to keep in mind that noone else will probably notice. I also try to look at RTW-garments that I buy. Sure enough, these aren’t perfect all the time either, but do I notice that? Nope.
    Starting over all the time can also leave you resentful (and keep you from making lal the other lovely projects you had in mind, too. Quite selfish of me to Think that way, I suppose.)

  • annekecaramin

    I don’t make a lot for others for kind of the same reason: my standards for myself are way lower than for what I would gift to someone else. I can live with it if my dress isn’t perfect on the inside, but I’d never be able to give someone something that’s less nicely finished. I’m currently sewing something for a friend’s birthday and it’s stressing me out like crazy because the fabric she chose is hell to work with and it’s not turning out as nice as I’d want it, even though I know she won’t mind.

  • Brigid de Jong

    Hmmm…interesting question. I think that it’s the opposite for me. When I make something for someone else they won’t notice the imperfections (and I won’t tell them…) and so they are very happy with it, no reservations. But for me, I’ll be wearing it, and every time I look at it I’ll see that THING and it will bug me.

  • Mads (lifeinamadshouse)

    I can SO relate to this post, Jen! I have also made things for my husband and I get so freaked out that something isn’t perfect, especially if the thing in question is a garment. The first thing I ever made him was a (sewn) cardigan not long after I started sewing, and it was passable but I can certainly do better now; this past winter he pulled it out to wear to an outing (!!!!!!) and I begged him not to wear it because all I could see were the flaws in it. If it was my own I might wear it anyway, but even then my perfectionism usually wins out. 😉 I am knitting him a pair of socks now and he commented at the last “fitting” that they felt kind of loose, and now I’m considering ripping them back and making them snugger even though they *look* fantastic, haha!

  • Nicole Shepherd

    Yep, making for others is TOUGH! Except when it’s for the kid, lol. It took a lot of nerve for me to make and sell things to others. And when I get a custom request from someone I know (especially someone who sews!), I drive myself crazy trying to make sure it’s “perfect.”

  • ajamakesthings

    The first time I made my partner Tom a sweater, I was so worried he wouldn’t like it. He loves what I make more than I do, just as Jon loves your makes more than you, and so I can utterly relate to the entirety of this post. However, while he would’ve loved whatever it is I whipped up purely on principle, I know that he is, deep down, quite picky about fit, and had asked for very specific things in this sweater. I took a long time, too, putting it together, but still stare at the neckband in fisherman’s rib and thing “oh, what was I thinking?” It seems to me the pick-up rate was slightly off at the front, and it’s driving me nuts because he will also undoubtedly keep this thing forever. I could pull it out, and early on I thought about doing so frequently, but as I’ve lived with it, the stitches have evened out, and frankly the neckband was going to warp a bit with wear anyway. I’m starting to realize that I hit so many other highs on it the little things can be let go. Not to mention, it’s felted a bit into itself, and really would be a nightmare to pull out. I think, in truth, it’s a snapshot of where I was when I was making it, more than it’s a reflection of a mistake I made making a garment. I think I’ve grown to have a kind of love for that slightly askew neckband, consequently.

  • erniek3

    I have to chuckle because it’s all true. He will hang onto it forever, and you will stare at the errors and steal it back now and then to unpick and reknit (or start at the bottom of the offending stitch, unravel to that point and hook it back correctly with a crochet hook). Nothing is ever really ‘done’ when you make things, but you do have to hand it over sooner than later, or the ‘wtf’ factor will kick in.
    If you live long enough, it will start to fail, and by then, you’ll be alright with it, as long as the two of you are good with each other. And I can wish you nothing better than that.

    • ajamakesthings

      I like the thought that “nothing is ever really ‘done’ when you make things”. It resonates with me because of something one of the professors I most admired at grad school told me: “You never complete a paper, journal, study or book, you simply abandon it.”

  • Angela Hickman

    I just knit a sweater for my husband (a first) and I totally get this. it becomes a self-fulfilling thing, too, since the longer you spend working on it, the more it seems worth it rip back and re-start, because “I’ve spent a month on this so what difference does an extra week make?”

    One thing I will say is that this probably won’t be the last thing you knit for him (my husband as already picked out yarn for the next sweater), and this sweater will tell you both a lot about what he’ll want for the second one. And, annoyingly, it’s probably going to be something you can’t test for until he’s worn it a few times.

    All of which is to say: A finished garment is better than no garment, and you’re far more likely to go through this again if you don’t make yourself crazy this time around.

    Good luck! It’s look fantastic!

  • Maureen

    I almost never knit for myself…I mostly knit usually for my daughter and young grandchildren…and occasionally for my husband. I love to sew and knit but fight perfectionism all the time as I rip out more than I stitch sometimes! I just finished a pair of alpaca socks for my daughter and I knit each sock almost twice…because of not paying attention to what I was doing. These were knit on size 1 DPNs (like knitting with toothpicks!) from the top down. This was a painful lesson…knit both socks at the same time! My friends tell me I’m crazy for trying to make it “perfect”, my husband tells me he would never have the patience to rip out and start again…I wish I could just let things go…after all, it’s handmade, right? I fight this with every. single. thing I make but I’m working on being less picky. I guess I’ll always be a work in progress. Good luck, Jen…if it bugs you, listen to your inner voice and follow your instincts – even if you rip it out ten times! You’ll be happier in the end! The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is minimal!

  • Charlotte

    Totally agree – the only criteria when I make something for myself is whether I’m happy to wear it, & the answer is always yes. But for someone else, I really want it to be perfect, so it never meets my expectations!

  • Katja Eitel

    Making for others is tough and I tend to be even more perfectionist as I would be for myself. Ripping out something knitted several times because of that totally happend to me more than once, so I absolutely understand. Try to concentrate on how much he likes the finished item instead of what you feel should be better, sometimes this seems to help me.

  • Emily Camfield

    I make stuff for my kids and I don’t worry too much about those items. But last year I made my mom a shirt for her birthday and it was really, really stressful! I guess I’m pretty comfortable wearing stuff that’s not perfect, but for someone else, I would be mortified if it wasn’t perfect.
    So I rarely make clothes for other people (except my kids) anymore. I just get so stressed that I don’t enjoy it.

  • akagracie

    Thank you for this – and for the opportunity to comment.
    I made my first quilt with great trepidation, but with great support at a small shop in North Wales PA in 1996. It was hand-sewn & machine quilted. When I showed it to my husband of 29 years, his immediate response was to say, “Oh, what’s that?,” and point to the center of a Dresden Circle (which was slightly uncircular). That was, in fact, the end of my marriage. I realized at that moment that he would never change: that I would spend the rest of my life with someone who would continue to find fault with everything I did.
    Straw/camel’s back.
    Three years later, my friend Susan asked me to make a sweater for her based on one I was wearing (one I have to this day; thanks Rowan for your pattern & your yarn!).
    I warned her that the one I was wearing was my first-ever attempt, and hers would be my second. She was (surprisingly) happy with that.
    I finished the sweater in a hotel in Istanbul on New Year’s Eve 1999, with Susan in the room. She put it on & (I wept with joy as she) said she loved it. It was only the next day that she told me her Scottish mother had taught her how to knit, but she wanted something I had made for her & she wouldn’t change a stitch of it. Susan and I were friends; she could easily have suggested changes – but she didn’t. She accepted the work I had done (it was serviceable, possibly not much more)
    That first quilt: my now-grown son & his wife treasure it as my first quilt (they have many more of mine). In 2016, his elder brother allowed me to make two quilts for him.
    Here’s why I’m posting this: A friend supported me & made me feel I could make something. Others made me feel my work was worthwhile.
    I’m 70.
    I now feel as if I – my work – will live on after my death.
    I see the value of labeling my work.
    It’s immortality.


Leave a Reply